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Parshas B'Shalach - A Split Second Incision    15 Shvat 5781

01/29/2021 08:24:58 AM


The weekly Dvar Torah is sponsored by Deborah and Maxwell Brookler in memory of Mrs. Kitty Silverman, Gitel bas Ezriel Baruch on her first Yahrzeit

On January 23, 2020, China imposed an absolute lockdown in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Now, one year later, the long months of harsh lockdown have faded from view in Wuhan, the first city in the world devastated by the new coronavirus. As residents begin the process of moving on, they cite a Chinese saying which warns against “forgetting the pain after a scar heals”. Fast forward to a still-festering world-wide pandemic and there probably isn’t a five- or six-year-old child in the world who will ever forget this past year. Baruch Hashem, we do see the light at the end of the tunnel with proper precautions and a vaccine.

Every generation is defined and characterized by a life-changing event. Lives are molded through life- changing experiences. For the world at large, this generation will be marred by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the previous generation (a generation is approximately twenty years) by the events of 9/11. Our parents and grandparents endured world wars and times of a financial depression. There are upside events and milestones as well, from a cure, vaccine, or major medical breakthroughs to putting a man on the moon.  These  global events have each profoundly affected large segments of the world’s population. On a micro level, this occurs within countries, ethnicities and especially in religions. Within the Jewish world the previous generations witnessed two polarized /opposite events, namely the years from 1939-1945 known as the holocaust and, only a few short years later in 1948, the establishment of the State of Israel.

For the Jewish people, historically speaking, Yezias Mitrayim, the Exodus from Egypt was the defining moment for the Jews then and forever after. It is the one event that is connected to the Shalosh Regalim of Pesach, Sukkos and Shavuos. It is the historical event that we mention during every kiddush - sanctifying Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Reb Aaron Ben Asher of Karlin (1802 – 1872), known as Rabbi Aaron II of Karlin, was a famous Chasidic Rebbe in northwestern Russia. In his work Beis Aharon, he instructed his students to review a certain Ramban every day as it is a fundamental part of Yiddishkeit/Judaism. The Ramban, at the end of Parshas Bo Shmos 13:16, explains the purpose of constantly remembering Yetzias Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt. He wrote: "ומן הנסים הגדולים המפורסמים אדם מודה בנסים הנסתרים שהם יסוד התורה כלה שאין לאדם חלק בתורת משה רבינו עד שנאמין בעל דברינו ומקריני שכלם נסים אין בהם טבע ומנהגו של עולם"  “By remembering the great and wondrous miracles, one recognizes the hidden miracles too, and this is the foundation of the entire Torah. For if not, one does not have a portion in the Torah unless he believes that everything that occurs to him is all miraculous, and that there is no such thing as the natural order of the world. This is the whole purpose of saying over the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim, fulfilling the mitzva to say it twice every single day.” One can ask, ”Why?” The answer is to remember that everything that happens to us is Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence).  Accordingly, it follows that the great signs and wonders constitute faithful witnesses, witness to the truth of the belief in the existence of the Creator and the truth of the entire Torah. And because the Holy One, blessed be He, will not make signs and wonders in every generation just for the sake of the eyes of some wicked man or heretic. He therefore commanded us that we should always make a memorial sign of that which we have seen with our eyes, and that we should transmit the matter to our children, and their children to their children, to the generations to come, and He placed great emphasis on it, as indicated by the fact that one is liable to extinction for eating Chometz on Pesach and for the abandoning of the Korban Pesach the Paschal lamb”.

The Chasam Sofer explains this Ramban with an amazing parable as to how we get from repeating the amazing miracles of Yetzias Mitrayim to seeing the Hashgacha Pratis in everything that occurs to us. There was once an exceptionally talented artist, a sculptor who was one of the greatest of his time. One of his most outstanding pieces was a beautiful sculpture of a horse. The horse was made from plastic, but it looked so real that it was difficult for anyone to realize that it was fake. He decided to move this sculpture, which had taken him months to create, to a place smack in the middle of the busiest intersection of the city. He stood from afar on one of the corners of the street, watching people coming and going.  No one,  not one person, stopped to look at his beautiful work of art. This bothered him terribly. He thought to himself about how hard he worked, about how many months he had devoted to creating this beautiful work of art, yet no one even gave it a glance. Deeply disappointed, he thought that perhaps he had not truly created a work of art after all. One day, he mentioned these feelings to his friend. His friend replied, “You are being foolish. The reason no one has stopped to admire your horse is the opposite:  it is because it is too good – they think it is a real horse. Seeing a real horse is not that interesting. I would advise you to take this sculpture and split it in half. When people see a statue of a  horse which looks so real  split into two, you will see many people stop to admire it’! The people will realize it is a beautiful work of art and they will appreciate it.” And that is exactly what happened; the passersby started to notice his work of art.

The Chasam Sofer explains this exact human response occurs in this world. Hashem created the heavens and the earth. A person wakes up in the morning with everything running smoothly. There is a sun by day, moon by night, but no one notices the constant ‘Hashgacha Pratis’ - Hashem’s consistent overseeing of the world’s daily activities. We tend not to pay attention to the fact that it is God who is arranging everything every single micro-second. Therefore, Hashem made Yetzios Mitzrayim, a one-time exodus from Egypt where the things that are ‘regular’ were changed. First there were the ten plagues, then the  splitting of the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds). What was the purpose if not to grab the attention away from the ordinary day-to-day expected occurrences of life.

There are moments throughout our lives when we look around and consider all the miraculous things that make the world happen, that make the world seem ordinary. We take for granted the daily Hashgacha and input Hashem continuously gives to the world and to our very existence. Therefore, sometimes, on a daily basis or weekly/monthly basis, Hashem will break something in two to get our attention. It is our responsibility to recognize the beauty of the world and see the incredible artwork of the Creator all the time, especially when He splits it in two.  

Tue, September 28 2021 22 Tishrei 5782